AUSTIN (KXAN) – Hours after what is believed to be the fourth bombing in Austin this month, Chief of Police Brian Manley said it is “very possible” the device in Sunday night’s explosion was triggered by a trip wire.
Two men in their 20s, who were either riding or pushing their bicycles, were injured when the bomb exploded in the “Travis Country East” subdivision in southwest Austin. Both men are in good condition at the hospital, according to a spokesperson for St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.
The Austin Police Department is asking homeowners within a half-mile radius of the intersection of Dawn Song Drive at Republic of Texas Boulevard to stay inside their homes until 10 a.m. Monday and follow officers’ instructions. Republic of Texas Boulevard is blocked between Missions Oaks and Travis Country Boulevard.
Chief Manley said investigators are working on the belief that Sunday night’s explosion is connected to the previous three. He noted the FBI, ATF and his department’s investigators at the scene will learn more when the sun comes up and they can completely process evidence.
While the chief said he could not confirm the trip wire aspect immediately, he did say the bombs have different kinds of projectiles within them.
Initial reports indicate some key differences between the latest bombing and the other three, including that it happened at night, did not occur in east Austin, did not appear to be on someone’s front porch, may have been set off by a trip wire and may not be a package. Police are asking anyone who sees anything suspicious — not just a package — to call 911.
Sunday night’s bombing took place just after 8:30 p.m. Austin-Travis County EMS says it originally responded to the 4700 block of Eagle Feather Dr., located off of Southwest Parkway and west of South MoPac Expressway. However, when they arrived, ATCEMS and Austin police said the explosion was actually in the 4800 block of Dawn Song Drive, which is one block away.
The explosion Sunday evening is the fourth such incident since March 2, when 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House was killed by a package bomb. A second and third bombing during the morning hours of March 12 ended in another person being killed and another two injured.
The first bombing incident was in northeast Austin, the second in east Austin and the third in southeast Austin. Chief Manley said in a follow-up press conference at 1:45 a.m. Monday that the possibility the bomb was triggered by a trip wire and the fact that the explosive device was left next to the road instead of on a front porch like the previous three cases necessitated a new warning to the public:
“We now need the community to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device, whether it be a package, a bag, a backpack, anything that looks out of place. And do not approach it. Again do not approach items like that, but instead call 911 to report it so we can go out and make sure it’s safe.”
Austin ISD said in a Facebook post that its school buses will be unable to go into the neighborhood Monday Any tardies or absences due to the situation will be excused, the district said. At least two nearby schools — Regents High School and St. Andrews’s Episcopal School — are on two-hour delays. Regents High School said the delay will allow it to perform a security sweep.
Stan Malachowski was inside his home when he heard the noise, but didn’t think anything of it initially.
“It was loud enough to hear inside of our house with our windows and door shut. Again, airplanes go by and cars backfire so we didn’t think much of it,” says Malachowski.
Malachowski and his family were out of town last week for spring break, but they had been following the bombing news.
“It’s not just an east Austin thing, or north Austin thing, it’s now southwest Austin. This is not good,” says Malachowski.
Sunday night’s bombing came less than 12 hours after the Austin Police Department held a news conference pleading for the person responsible for the recent bombings to come forward before anyone else was injured or killed.
“We want to understand what brought you to this point and we want to listen to you,” said Chief Manley.
During the news conference, authorities also increased the reward amount to $115,000 for any information leading to the arrest of the suspect or suspects.